Bandits steal win

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

Bob Watson's teammates owe him one. The red-hot Toronto Rock goaltender put on a clinic in a fantastic lacrosse game last night, only to walk away with a tough loss.

The Buffalo Bandits (6-3) never trailed in a intense battle for first place in the National Lacrosse League's East Division, edging the Rock 14-12 before a season-high crowd of 17,756 at the Air Canada Centre.

Watson was named player of the game on a night when he made 44 saves and his team was outshot 58-54.

"This is five straight where he's just been truly phenomenal, going back to Rochester when we lost in overtime," Rock forward Colin Doyle said of Watson, who started the game with a great shoulder stop on a Billy Dee Smith breakaway.

"He has given us a chance to win every game, simple as that. We can't hang him out to dry on two-on-ones and three-on-ones. He made the saves he needed to make, we just couldn't respond."

Not that the Rock (5-3) didn't try.

In the final minute, Bandits goalie Steve Dietrich made five saves, including two outstanding stops on Chris Driscoll and Aaron Wilson to preserve a 13-12 lead.

Jason Crosbie's empty netter with 6.7 seconds left, his game-high fourth goal of the game, officially snapped the Rock's three-game winning streak.

With 2:44 left, Crosbie gave the Bandits the lead, 12-11, for good when he was left alone in front of the crease.

"That's lacrosse," Watson said when asked if he had ever played better in a loss. "Somebody said you can let in 25 goals and play the game of your life. Unfortunately, we lost and that's what is disappointing."

When the Rock starts preparing for the much-anticipated final game of the season between the long-time rivals March 26 in Buffalo, it should focus on transition defence. The Bandits scored four goals on breakaways last night.

While Mark Steenhuis was great on the run for the Bandits, most of the fast break goals came as a result of poor Toronto changes.

"They killed us on the fast break and if we take that away from them, I think we win that game," said Doyle, who led the Rock with three goals and three assists. "There were bad choices by us forwards. Most of the time it cost us."

The game in Buffalo March 26 will decide the season series. The Rock beat Buffalo 15-13 in the season opener.

In a game filled with highlight-reel plays last night, the constant physical action stood out.

"The intensity out there, you could cut with a knife," said Rock captain Jim Veltman, who had blood dripping down his leg after the game.

Bandits star John Tavares had one goal and five assists, giving him 598 goals for his career.

The Rock travels to Anaheim to face the Storm next Sunday.


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